The Epsom Classic Scene

May 13th, 2019 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

Hi there!

As I write this, a few days before the Dante Stakes, the Derby market is dominated by colts trained by Aidan O’Brien.

No fewer than four of the top eight horses quoted are trained at Ballydoyle, with Paddy Power now betting just 1/3 that O’Brien will send out his seventh Derby winner on June 1st.

Despite his dominance of the trials and the Newmarket Classics, Too Darn Hot is still holding steady at the head of the market despite John Gosden’s repeated insistence that he suspects the colt’s best trip will be a mile and a quarter.

That remains to be seen, because a convincing win by Too Darn Hot at York on Thursday on Thursday will make it very hard for connections to resist a crack at Epsom.

It has long been my view that Too Darn Hot will not only stay a mile and a half but relish it. By Dubawi out of Dar Re Mi, a winner four times over a mile and a half, twice at Group 1 level, she is a daughter of stamina-influence Singspiel.

Furthermore Too Darn Hot tends to hit a flat spot in his races, to such extent that I thought he might have been vulnerable over the mile of the Guineas had he run.

One point to make relates to the colt’s physique. I only saw him once last season, before the Dewhurst Stakes, but from what I have seen on social media images recently he does not look the scopiest of colts. He is, if anything, a little short of depth and that is something to look out for in the paddock on Thursday.

The first two colts that I discussed for the Derby in my Dark Horse Companion were Too Darn Hot and Japan, and they head the Dante market at 7/4 and 3/1.

Aidan O’Brien will be a strong position to know where he stands with Japan, who cost 1,300,000gns as a yearling and is the ninth foal of a middle-distance winning half-sister to Arc winner Sagamix.

He was very green when getting up close home to win a 7f maiden at Listowel last September and again took a while to pick up when beating Mount Everest, now sadly injured, in a Group 2 at Naas.

Both Too Darn Hot and Japan have a rather lazy style of racing – something that may be of interest to in-running backers on Thursday.

The recent money for Surfman is interesting. Roger Varian’s colt strode clear to win a 1m maiden at Nottingham in November and returned to land odds of 1/8 at Newcastle in April. His current mark of 101 leaves him 25lb to find with Too Darn Hot and lagging 10lb behind Japan.

In one of the strongest Dante fields for years, we must also consider Line of Duty, the winner of three of his five starts last season including the 1m Breeders’ Cup, Hughie Morrison’s impressive Windsor winner Telecaster and Sir Michael Stoute’s very tough Almania. Kadar also warrants serious consideration.

Even allowing for the dominance of the Ballydoyle colts, I would be very surprised if the winner of the Dante is not heading the Derby market by Thursday afternoon. To my eyes it promises to be the pick of the trials.

The Oaks picture looks just as murky.

Pink Dogwood, recent winner of a Listed race at Navan, heads the market with 1,000 Guineas winner Hermosa next in.

Just Wonderful, who caught the eye making steady late headway in the Guineas, is bred to thrive over a mile and a half but her action was all over the place so that raises concerns around Epsom.

Maqsad was visually the most impressive winner of an Oaks trial I have seen this season when she hacked up on a tight rein in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket, beating 100-rated Shambolic by five lengths. She is bred for middle distances.

Stable-companion Sea Of Faith caught the eye in a major way on her Sandown debut but she has no immediate entry for a trial and will struggle to win an Oaks on just her second start.

The next few days should provide some clarity on the uncertainty …

Bye for now